Coming Up: Year Long Loop, KCET Voices, 2009
Willis, Holly, Coming Up: Year Long Loop, KCET Voices, September 16, 2009
An algorithm is “a machine for the motion of parts,” says Alexander Galloway very elegantly in his bookGaming: On Algorithmic Culture. He writes extensively about video games, arguing that they offer us insight into the structures of today’s information culture. I wonder, though, if the rise in video projects that call attention to their structure isn’t also a reflection of that information culture… Why? Because these projects overtly invite us to think about how information is organized…
Anyway, these thoughts are sparked by the upcoming screening of LA-based artist Cindy Bernard’s film Year Long Loop, which screens at USC Thursday night (September 17, 2009). The film compiles a series of video recordings collected by Bernard, whose work includes photographs and projections that explore the relationship among cinema, memory and landscape. Captured between October 2004 and September 2005 from a ridge in Mt. Washington, the video in its full length version is made up of 12 two-hour segments in a continuous 24-hour loop. Each five-minute shot captures a day; you’ll be relieved to know that the shorter, two-hour version of the film will screen at USC; in this version, the five-minute shots are reduced to 24 seconds. Find out why Bernard felt compelled to make the video, and why it can be so neatly shortened…
“I live in Mt. Washington at the top of a natural amphitheater of sound,” explains Bernard when asked what compelled her to make the project. “Ice cream trucks, parties, car horns, coyotes, fireworks and of course helicopters combine with owls, hawks, crows and other bird species, buzzing flies, my dog and other sounds from my ridge to create an mix that’s in constant flux. I’d been wanting to document the mix for some time when a friend (Raymond Pettibon) gave me a video camera to shoot The Inquisitive Musician. I then realized I had the perfect tool to record my little ambient video.”
Bernard adds that she had been watching the films of LA avant-garde filmmaker James Benning, much of whose work is highly structured, at the same time, and had also just worked on a CD compilation called soundCd no. 2 for SASSAS (The Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound); the CD includes John Cage’s 4’33” as performed by James Tenney. Says Bernard, “These works and other similar pieces are important to me and I decided to do an homage.” She continues, “That’s what determined the structure – but of course it’s not really about the math; it’s more about attentiveness and small shifts which result in aural and visual surprises.”
Asked how this project connects with her other work, Bernard makes a key observation: “Some would say that absence plays a role in much of my visual work – the emptied spaces of Ask the Dust or the “Location Proposal” works, the empty and soundless bandshells, etc. And in Year Long Loop, you are presented with a seemingly blank vista which of course isn’t vacant at all…”
The video, like the work of Benning and Cage, asks you to pay attention, actively, and to note and celebrate the surprises that occur when we focus. However, that kind of attentive viewing is in tension with an awareness of structure – the number of shots, their organization, and so on. The project, then, is in a sense algorithmic, but it’s also just as keenly attuned to the serendipitous events – the honking horn or buzzing fly – that within this rigorous form spark all kinds of strange pleasures.